Steven Hellerstedt | 08/09/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
A honeymooning couple visit the husband's childhood friend. Sort of. The friend arranges to have the couple `bunk down' with him while they're in town. He asks his landlady to give them a key when they arrive and then walks off into the deep shadows of Anytown, USA. The young innocents are played by John Ireland and Jane Randolph. Their stay in Anytown is extended because... well, er, because.... Now looky here, OPEN SECRET takes its own sweet time - almost thirty of its sixty-eight minutes, by my clock - getting around to telling you what the heck is going on. Letting the suspense build like that works for about ten minutes. If you're like me, the next twenty will be spent with your thumb hovering between the `FF' and the `Eject' buttons on the remote control. The movie plays so cute with its precious `secret' that I'm hesitant to write it down here. However, two big and reputable internet sites spill the beans in their one-paragraph plot summaries, as does the three-paragraph blurb on the dvd jacket. So, I guess it's alright. You see, Anytown's got itself an anti-Semitic hate group that gobbled up the friend and is terrorizing every one of `those' people it comes across. The friend was in possession of incriminating material that, the hate group believes, is still in the apartment the newlyweds are squatting in.
There. I just saved you thirty minutes. I'll save you another forty and advise you to pass this one up. If you aren't familiar with `Gentlemen's Agreement' or `Crossfire' the hollow echoes in this one won't sound, anyway. If you are you'll find OPEN SECRET too coy by half. The story is weak and telling it from the sweet couple's point of view robs whatever edginess might have been squeezed out of things. The better cheap crime thrillers of that era always compensated for their bare bones production values with twisted characters and plots. For instance, a man is on the lam after pushing his wife off a speeding train has a certain amount of brio. Better yet, he pushes his wife AND her lover off the train. Best yet, he's on the lam for double homicide and he's traveling with a ventriloquist dummy he named after his mother. Light it with candles and stick a beat up fedora on the mug and you're halfway home to Classic City.
The cast is stocked with good actors, and with a sharper approach and a tighter script this one might have been fun. About all it had to offer that I enjoyed was the chance to see some good character actors at relatively early points in their careers. Along with Ireland and Randolph there's Sheldon Leonard as the city's hate-group hunting detective, and Arthur O'Connell and King Donovan as a members of the hate-group. It was fun to see them, but not fun enough to make me recommend this movie. The Gotham Distribution print is in just okay condition, but the sound track is in terrible shape. There's a background noise through half of the movie that sounds like a faint, slow heartbeat heard through a clogged stethoscope.
Interesting B-movie Film Noir
K. Bunker | Boston, MA USA | 01/16/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"An interesting little B movie film noir in which John Ireland, visiting an army buddy with his wife, finds himself battling a ruthless neighborhood gang of white supremacists. Notable for its gritty, working-poor setting and lots of dark, expressionist lighting. This work is also an example of how low cost B movies could tackle social issues that the studios of the day would never broach in a big budget release. Well worth the low price!"
More grim than gritty
Roger Yepsen | Barto, PA USA | 12/16/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's too bad the directing of this one weren't as tight as the budget. The film was shot on sets so small that you find yourself wondering how there could be room for the cameras and lights. Assuming they used lights at all-- the sight lines are kept short to avoid having to show anything but the sketchiest details of rooms or city streets. The film's issues of hate crime and anti-semitism require (in the director's mind) that the principals, John Ireland and Jane Randolph, go through the entire sixty-some minutes with furrowed brows. Except for one uncharacteristic scene, that is. In a sunlit apartment, a groggy Ireland manages to nudge the breast of the nurturing Randolph with his head and shoulder. Neither is able to suppress a smile at their antics, and you can imagine the crew having a silent laugh as well. Randolph was made for better scripts and direction, and, not finding them, she quit the biz while still in her twenties, her last film being "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.""